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AAS Celebrates 40 Years with Films, Discussion, Songs

April 4, 2011

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MACOMB, IL – During April, African American studies commemorates the 1970 founding of the department at Western Illinois University. Several film screenings, lectures and activities will showcase the department's role in academics at WIU.

"We are proud of the academic and cultural role the department has played on this campus. We honor the founders and those who have lead the department up to this point," said Associate Professor and Chair Alphonso Simpson Jr. "We, the current faculty and staff, take our academic responsibilities seriously and continue to strive to educate all of our students, as well as the general population, regarding the Black community and the important position the Department of African American Studies maintains within it."

All events are open free to the public. The scheduled for Monday–Friday, April 4–8 includes:
April 4 from 6–8 p.m. "The Glass Shield," a 1994 film featuring WIU alumnus Michael Boatman, screening and discussion. (Morgan Hall 109)

April 5 from 6–7:30 p.m. "Africa & Her Diaspora: Civil Rights & Pan-Africanism," presented by Laurian Bowles, assistant professor of anthropology and African American studies, Liaisons lectures series. (Morgan Hall 109)

April 6 at 6 p.m. Screening of "Taafe-Fanga" (The Skirt Power), with a discussion led by Safoura Boukari, associate professor of African American studies. The satire of mainstream gender roles, produced by Malien filmmaker Adama Drabo, asks the question what would the world be like if women were the leaders and decision-makers?

April 7 from 7-9 p.m. Gospel choir exhibition/rehearsal and lecture by Simpson, with the assistance of the United Voices of Western Inspirational Singers. (Morgan Hall 109)

April 8 at 6 p.m. Screening of "Precious," a film about an overweight, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child, when she is invited to enroll in an alternative school to try to turn her life around. A discussion will be led by Sharon Hunter, an instructor in African American studies. (Morgan Hall 109)

Western's African American studies department was developed during a period of racial strife in America, in general, and in Macomb, where WIU had its first significant presence of Blacks on campus. The demand for a Black studies program led to faculty first developing individual courses, including "Race Relations and the Educator," "Negro American Literature" and "American Negro History," according to John Hallwas' "The First Century" (p. 180).

Today, Western's Department of African American Studies offers a Bachelor of Arts degree as well as a graduate certificate in African and African Diaspora World Studies.

For individual event details, visit the department office in Morgan Hall 232, phone (309) 298-1181 or visit the website at

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